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July 9th, 2009
08:18 AM ET

FDNY's newest training tool: high-rise simulator

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/07/09/signage.simulator.randall.island.art.jpg caption="The sign upon entering the subway component."]

From CNN Associate Producer Erica Fink

FDNY firefighters are now training on the world’s first high rise fire simulator, and they took us along for a morning of drills at the Fire Academy, or as they call it, “The Rock.”

The building simulates conditions unique to high rise fires: a person stuck in an elevator shaft; people stuck in the windowsills of burning rooms, many floors high; rooms with old or poor ventilation; apartments and offices illegally divided into very small rooms.  And while the building itself is only five stories tall, the drills require engine companies to react as if they are 40 or 50 stories off the ground (there’s a trampoline on the side of the building, but they’re not allowed to jump off the roof.)

As many as fifteen times a day, they set the building on fire with a remote control.  Deb got to play victim as one squad company practiced a rope rescue from the fourth floor.

Until the simulator was built, firefighters practiced on unused portions of working office buildings (imagine sitting at your desk and seeing a firefighter repelling from the roof past your window).  Worse yet, they only got to do it a couple of times a year and it wasn’t real fire - they would practice without smoke or water.

The academy looks like something out of Hollywood. They have fake street scenes, burnt down busses, and a full-fledged subway station for firefighters to practice rescuing people stuck beneath subway trains (I crawled under one of the subway cars and there really is headroom if you get stuck under one…but I’m glad the FDNY is practiced on getting folks out of there.) Check out the videos and our exclusive behind the scenes photos.

On site at the nation's first fire simulator on Randall's Island, NY
On site at the nation's first fire simulator on Randall's Island, NY
A simulated burning bus.
A simulated burning bus.
Firefighters in front of the simulator
Firefighters in front of the simulator

Actor Denis Leary and the Leary Firefighters Foundation partly backed the project, with the rest of the funding coming from the Department of Homeland Security. Watch our one-on-one interview with Leary.

 Deb Feyerick interviews Denis Leary on-site
Deb Feyerick interviews Denis Leary on-site

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/07/09/simulator.smoke.building.art.jpg caption="Simulated building fire"]

Every day, all day, different ladder and engine companies come through the facility to train on simulated fires.

The FDNY took us through a drill with a ladder company to see them in action: we saw them combat flames over head, kick doors down, do a gurney rescue down an elevator shaft, and climb through windows.

The facility was the subject of an international symposium in March, where fire fighters from around the country came to learn about the facility to replicate in their own cities, easily applicable to Chicago, Los Angeles, Philadelphia and Washington, DC.

Subway simulator.
Subway simulator.
Firefighters on the safety net in front of the building.
Firefighters on the safety net in front of the building.

Deb plays victim for the simulation.
Deb plays victim for the simulation.
Intense training.
Intense training.
Trainees entering the scene.
Trainees entering the scene.

Filed under: Technology • You Have to See This
soundoff (3 Responses)
  1. Barbara

    This is an amazing, insightful, and much-needed project. Thanks, Denis and everyone involved, for what will sure to be a lifesaving training program.

    July 9, 2009 at 11:07 am |
  2. Joe Wolf

    We are pleased to see FDNY open the nation’s only high rise fire simulator on Randall’s Island, New York. Thank you to Actor Denis Leary and the Department of Homeland Security for funding the project. We look forward to cities across the USA implementing high rise fire simulators for training, policy and procedure development. HighRiseEscapeSystems.com

    July 9, 2009 at 9:19 am |
  3. michael armstrong sr.

    this building is a great idea to train fire fighters but it would be put to even better use to also train public servents and volunters in the event of earth quakes and national crises .

    July 9, 2009 at 8:38 am |